Feeling the Pressure

After my half marathon, I seemed to recover much more quickly than I ever thought I would. I wore compression shorts immediately after and overnight in the days after the marathon. Two days after the marathon I had zero soreness, which I tie to the compression.

It’s been almost two weeks since the race. I’ve been running, but not a ton. I’ve been mostly doing lower impact workouts in the time since. Weight training has returned and I’m actually enjoying it. However, while Bernie and I were painting his house past Saturday, I noticed a very sharp pain in my right foot. All of a sudden, I went from feeling fine to having a super tough pain radiating from my foot, up my ankle, and into my calf.  Oh. Shit.

I immediately didn’t know what it was. I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s from standing on my feet all day and painting. Maybe it’s from lifting heavy cans of paint. Maybe it’s from standing on the super scary rickety wooden ladder.” As the night went on, it continued to hurt. I went to sleep somewhat worried, but chalked it up to overexerting myself.

The next day, I woke up to the same pain. I changed my shoes from my Nike Free’s (little support) to my Brooks running shoes (more support) and it seemed to help. I had on and off pain the whole day while painting. Again, I hoped and prayed it was nothing serious.

So this leaves us to now. I’ve been having a pain in the outside/bottom/top of my foot (it keeps changing). I also noticed that the calf on that leg was SUPER tight, especially along the outside. So I rolled it one night and was left with a really sore lower leg, but a somewhat better foot. I’ve dealt with ankle/calf injuries before when I had peroneal tendonitis. I used to get really bad ankle/calf pain when I rode horses and my orthopedist at the time told me to get a foam roller for my calves. Within a week, the pain was gone forever.

So right now, I think it might be one of two things:

  1. The peroneal tendonitis is back since I have pretty tight calves from all the training I did.
  2. I strained a tendon in the bottom of my foot from walking around in very unsupportive Nike’s while painting all weekend (lifting heavy cans, standing on my tippy toes a lot, standing on a rickety wooden ladder).

At least, that’s what I’m hoping.

I know that the best thing to do is rest, so I’m taking 5 days off from any exercise and waiting to see how I feel on Monday. That would be 9 days after the pain started. I know if I go to an orthopedist, that’s going to be their suggestion. I don’t believe it’s a stress fracture, because I don’t have any tender spots on bony parts of my foot. I don’t think it’s planter fasciitis, because my heel doesn’t hurt (at least that’s what I’m hoping – PF is scary for runners). I am worried, but I’m trying to focus on resting, icing, stretching my feet and calves, and foam rolling. I’d like to not be sidelined from running for longer than two weeks if I can help it. I have a 5k in a little over 2 weeks! If I’m still in pain by Monday, I’m going to make an appointment with an orthopedist.

Please ignore my scary toes. They're getting a pedicure this weekend - promise!

Since I’ve had multiple issues with my calves, I decided to finally make another investment in compression gear – compression calf sleeves. After researching different brands, I headed to City Sports and picked up the CEP Sports Compression Sleeves. After foam rolling, I slipped them on and they felt super comfy. I’m excited to start using them for runs. After walking around in them for a little while, I noticed the bottom of my foot didn’t hurt quite as much anymore. Good sign? I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

For now, I’ve been rocking these at night and will most likely be wearing them under my pants during the day. Shhhh – it can be our little secret ;).

Readers: Have you ever had calf muscle issues? Ever try compression gear? Do you think they make a difference? Ever had arch pain? How do you deal with annoying injuries?

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Frozen Solid

This morning, I did something that I thought I would never do — I went running in 6 degree weather.

My half marathon running plan has been going really well so far, and I’m up to a long run of 5 miles. That may not seem like a lot to seasoned runners, and it really isn’t for me either, but in 6 degree weather, just getting out of bed is a challenge. I knew that I had 5 miles on tap for today, and I knew it was going to be cold. I thought about maybe going out at noon to take advantage of the sun, but I ended up going out at 10:00 instead. The thing about New England is that the weather changes in the blink of an eye. This winter has been really interesting. Normally, I’d be more worried about black ice and snowy sidewalks right now than bitter cold temps.

So as Bernie got to sleep in, I suited up for 5 miles. I was properly dressed, but the shock of 6 degrees still catches you off guard once you walk outside. I usually don’t mind the cold, but with the windchill today, it felt like -13 degrees! Overall, it was a good 5 miles. I maintained a pace of about 9min miles, which is pretty good when your legs feel like frozen blocks. I should probably invest in some pants I can use as a double layer outside of my Under Armour winter tights. At one point I looked down at my garmin and saw that I had only run 3 miles. Seriously?! 2 more to go?!

The best part of running those 5 miles? The strawberry and walnut pancakes that I got at Eagle’s Deli afterward…hmmmmm yeah 🙂

[source]

Here are some good tips from runner’s world for staying warm while running in the cold weather. Here are my tips for dealing with cold weather running:

  1. Layer, layer, layer! I was always told to dress 10 degrees warmer than it really is outside to compensate for your body warming up as you run. The bottom layers should be tight to the body and moisture wicking.
  2. Listen to your mom, wear your hats and gloves. Gloves save my life when running, and so do hats. Hats and ear warmers work best when they are made specifically for running. They allow the moisture to escape, keeping your head warmer and dryer. Gloves can be whatever — the $2 cotton ones from the pharmacy work fine in crisper weather. Hard core ones are best for colder days.
  3. Heat up your shoes before you head out. Ladies, break out those hair dryers and use them to heat up your shoes. It makes your feet warmer at the start, which helps you avoid the sting of cold feet when they pound on the pavement.
  4. Warm up before you go out. Do jumping jacks, run up and down some stairs, do some errands around the house. The cold won’t feel so cold if you’re already warm. Plus — warm muscles are less likely to get injured.
  5. Go slow. Don’t try speed work in the cold. It won’t help your muscles or your lungs.

 

Readers: How do you deal with cold weather running? What is the coldest weather you’ve ever run in? How badly are you New Englanders missing summer right now?

A Tale of Too Many Injuries

Running seems to be an exercise in trial and error. This is usually a good way to figure things out we are often told “if first you don’t succeed, try again.” Well, that’s all fine and dandy if this trial and error doesn’t produce bodily harm. I’ve always been somewhat incident and accident prone — my father calls me “Murphy’s Law Matthews” — whatever can go wrong, usually does. This is true of many things: stolen credit card numbers, ATM’s eating debit cards to never have them return, breaking my college laptop within 2 months of buying it, losing more cell phones than I can count on one hand, having my apartment broken into but getting all the stolen goods back within a 4-hour window, etc. My life seems to be a running Seinfeld episode. This is also true of my physical clumsiness. I drop everything. My butter fingers has ruined Blackberries, cameras, iPods, glasses, mugs, plates, etc. I remember the time when I was really young and almost knocked myself out by climbing on the kitchen counter to reach the porcelain sugar bowl on the top shelf and dropping it. My mom wasn’t happy. So it began.

When I started running seriously, this whole “Murphy’s Law Matthews” thing kicked in. I lasted about 6 months of running on really old sneakers before I acquired an inch long stress fracture in my left tibia. My mom thought I was crazy when I told her that I thought the pounding pain in my leg was a little more serious than a pulled muscle. When the MRI results came in and the doctor looked at me and said, “see that, that’s not normal. Stop running, NOW!” my mom finally believed me. 6 run-less months and countless hours of boring cross training later, I finally got myself some good shoes and hit the pavement again.

I lasted probably a whole year without any issues. As I ran more, I read up more about how to avoid injury and started to get a handle on this whole running thing. I got a subscription to Runner’s World Magazine and it changed my outlook forever. “What do you mean I should get new running shoes once every 300-500 miles?!” I started getting better about new shoes, I researched training plans and techniques, and I made the leap from treadmill running to outdoor running.

I LOVED it! I did my first 5k and finished in 31 minutes. Soon I was a sub-30 minute 5k runner. Then sub 29, sub 28, sub 27. I was finally a knowledgeable runner, and I was getting faster too. Then the next injury hit — my dreaded right calf.

For years, I had a weird pain in my right ankle. I think I can trace it to a time when I was riding. I was about 14 or 15 and I was doing what’s called a “line stop”, which is when after you jump a line of jumps, you don’t allow your horse to continue around the corner of the arena, but you stop at the end and make your horse go from a canter to a complete halt. In order to do this correctly, you have to lean your body back, sit in the seat, and jam your heels down in the stirrups in order to balance your leg and body. I did the line stop, and I felt a slight pop in my right ankle. I immediately knew I screwed something up. I had trouble getting off and putting weight on it as I walked around. Of course, as a tough equestrian, I let it go. I think I might have iced it for a day or two but nothing more. From that moment on, I always seemed to have some issue with that ankle. It would jam on me, and often completely lock – not allowing me to flex it at all. The winter time made it worse, but once the summer rolled around, it would loosen up and be fine. For the last couple years that I rode, I wore a neoprene sleeve which seemed to give it some relief.

After a year or so of running under my belt and a stress fracture injury heeled, I noticed that my right ankle started acting up when I ran. This had never happened before so I was a little worried that my riding injury was starting to affect my running. Again, I slipped on the stupid neoprene sleeve and ran through it. Soon the pain started radiating from my ankle all the way up the outside of my calf — the same feeling I had when riding. After months of painful running, I finally paid a visit to my orthopedist at home in NY. He was an Ironman triathlete so I knew he could help me. After some xrays that proved inconclusive and looking at me stand, hop on one foot, and walk, he said that I looked fine and that it could be mild compartment syndrome, but he wasn’t sure. The test for it was pretty barbaric (it included cutting my leg open basically to test the pressure and then making me run on a treadmill). He said he’d rather not do it because the only way to deal with compartment syndrome is surgery (warning: the wikipedia page pic for it is kinda gross). He suggested I go get fitted for running shoes and start foam rolling my calves which would help with any muscle imbalances. I immediately went and got fitted for shoes. I found out that I was wearing the right type for me, but in a size smaller than was correct. oops. $100 later, I was introduced to my new love, Brooks Ghost series. I’ve gone from the Ghost 2’s to the 3’s and now to the 4’s. Love them.

I also bought a foam roller once I got back to Boston and I got to work. The first time I used a foam roller, I cried – literally cried on my living room floor. I thought if this isn’t torture, I don’t know what is. With my new shoes and foam rolling exercises in hand, I ran. Each run felt better and better. Foam rolling became less painful and eventually necessary to a good run. Within 2 months, my ankle pain went away forever. It’s been 3 years and I haven’t had it since. All my ankle needed was a balanced calf.

Then the summer of 2009 came. We were in the process of trying to sell Ace and I was home for the summer working a really unpleasant job. One day, as Ace was standing on the crossties in the barn, he was spooked by another pony in the barn. Suddenly, he reared up on the crossties and being the panicked (and somewhat crazy) horse mom, I ran to him to release the bull snaps on his halter to free him from the crossties. Then, the inevitable happened, I got hurt. He landed directly on top of my left foot, crushing it with his shod hoof. He ran out of the barn and I chased after him, not noticing at all. Once I finally caught him and walked him back to the barn, the adrenaline stopped and my foot hurt. I got back to the barn and realized that this wasn’t good. I took off my boot (bad choice) and saw that my foot was swelling up. A couple hours and a hospital visit later, I left with the verdict — a crush injury! yay! Broken feet are awesome! I was outfitted with some crutches and a boot. No cast for me. Because it was a crush injury, the doctor was worries about crushed blood vessels, and because the bones in my feet were so tiny, and the soft tissue injury was so bad, it needed all the air and blood flow possible to heal. So that meant no constricting cast.

My foot is still bruised...over 2 years later

This also meant no running for 8 weeks. That was one of the worst two months of my life. I couldn’t run or ride for 8 weeks, I only had 4 months left with Ace forever, and I literally couldn’t do anything for a good 2 weeks except lay on the couch. I couldn’t wait until the 8 weeks were up. Finally, after 2 months I rode. I wasn’t supposed to, but I did. My horse show season was ruined, but I didn’t care. I got to ride Ace and enjoy doing what I loved more than anything for another month before we sold him.

It took a good month after my foot was healed to get my running legs back. It took time, but I ended up having an injury-free year. After the stress fracture, wonky ankle, and crushed foot, I was ready to have an easy go at it. There were some occasional pains that went away with some rest days and ice, but nothing bad for over 2 years. Until recently.

My latest: tight hips! This seems to be an injury that affects many female runners that I know. My latest is a mixture of the half-marathon training, winter running (my muscles always hate me), old shoes (ordered new ones 2 days ago), and not stretching correctly for me. I visited a chiropractor for the first time the other day and I’m officially a convert. It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. He told me that my hip flexors and piriformis were hard as rocks, which is why my hips and lower back have been in so much pain after a run. I go back on Friday to get readjusted again and I cannot wait. My run Tuesday night was so fluid and easy. It hasn’t felt that easy in a long time.

So those are the injuries so far. My body has been through a beating, but exercise and running is a learning process. Things will go wrong, but it’s important to be aware of your body so that you know when something is not right. And nothing can replace a good doctor.

Twenty Resolutions

Happy Hump Day! It’s been quite a busy week and will be an even busier weekend. My boyfriend bought a two-bedroom condo in Boston back in September. It’s been quite a process getting the place spruced up. In the months he’s lived there he’s moved in, bought some major furniture, (couches, TV, coffee table) and totally redone his bathroom. This weekend we’re going to tackle one of the other monsters – PAINTING! More to come on that.

I wish I had before photos of what this bathroom looked like when he moved in. SCARY!

But in the meantime, I wanted to address something that has been on the minds of many people – New Year’s Resolutions. I have seen TONS of blog posts on various blogs and sites all about resolutions, but this one on Thought Catalog really caught my eye. My friend Rebekah tweeted this article and I couldn’t help but comment on it – 20 New Year’s Resolutions for 20-Somethings.

Overall, I agree with every single one of these resolutions, and I thought it would be fun to come up with my own list of 20 New Year’s resolutions that I think us 20-somethings should stick to this year.

 

Twenty Resolutions for the Twenty-Something

  1. Relax about finding out EXACTLY what you want to “do with your life”. You’re living your life now, so whatever you’re doing now is what you’re “doing with your life”. It’s a process.
  2. Save some money every month. Even if it’s $50 or $100 – pay yourself.
  3. Travel. Go somewhere, anywhere that isn’t where you live right now. It will change the way you see other people and the world.
  4. Try a new hobby. Join a beer softball league, try a new class at the gym, find a local club. You’ll meet new people and expand your horizon.
  5. Stop spending so much money on super trendy clothing. Investment pieces are called that for a reason. It’s crazy to spend so much money on all that tacky glitter, feathers, and harem pants.
  6. Quit it with the “friends-with-benefits” relationships. Be an adult. You’re not a desperate18-year-old anymore.
  7. Call your family once a week. You’re parents and loved ones sure did a lot for you as you grew up, it’s time to pay them back with more than a text message every once in a while.
  8. Throw out all those stupid dating rules when it comes to men. They’re simple and like it when you’re straightforward. You’re allowed to call him first too, no one is keeping track.
  9. Get rid of the word “diet” from your vocabulary. Eat healthily and exercise. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll find yourself losing weight.
  10. Give back. Volunteer, donate to a charity, or support a local cause. It will feed your soul.
  11. Forgive yourself. It’s okay to not be perfect.
  12. Figure out your expenses and make an organized monthly budget. Good money habits should be adopted early.
  13. Tell your loved ones, to their face, how much you appreciate them. With life being so busy it’s easy to forget to express your appreciation for the things others do for you.
  14. If you’re in a relationship and you two are long past the honeymoon stage, bring back date night. It’s a perfect way to reconnect and remember why you fell in love in the first place.
  15. Watch the national news or read national papers. If you don’t know what’s going on in the world right now, find out!
  16. Don’t procrastinate, find a doctor and go to them! Taking control of your health is a habit you should develop sooner rather than later.
  17. Ladies, meeting a man at a bar is NOT the best place to do so. Stop acting so desperate every time you go out.
  18. Cherish your friends and treat them right – your 20’s are rough. You’ll need them by your side every step of the way, and this doesn’t include writing on each others’ Facebook walls.
  19. Tell your significant other that you love them and MEAN it.
  20. Breathe. Count to 10. Let it go.

 

What are your New Years’ resolutions? Are there any other resolutions that 20-somethings should follow? Thoughts about Thought Catalog’s article?

Balancing Food & Fun

One of my favorite things in the world is food, and it’s even better when that food is GOOD! As part of my healthy lifestyle, I try to eat and cook real, nutrient-filled food. Our bodies are strong, efficient machines so we should feed our machines with the best things possible. Just like how a Mercedes runs better on premium gas instead of regular unleaded, our bodies are going to run better on whole fruits, veggies, and whole grains than on diet bars and foods.

a delicious and healthy salad in Italy

When I first started to lose weight after my freshman year of college, I counted calories and was successful in losing the weight. After starting to read more about healthy diets and healthy ways of eating, I began to focus on the nutritional quality of my food. I cut all fast food out and high fructose corn syrup (easier said than done) from my diet completely after readying Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. I even cut out all red meet for a couple of years. I also then began to focus on exercise, weight training, and making my body strong. My weight went up about 5 pounds, which I attributed to muscle gain and the stress of being a student.

Now as a full-fledged adult, and 4 years later, I’ve learned more and more about how to balance eating really healthy and cleanly, exercise, and having fun. This isn’t always an easy balance, but I like to keep my life 80% healthy with 20% of “not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-delicious” things. There’s nothing fun about diets. Diets don’t work anyway; only lifestyle changes do.

Cupcakes are best when they are mini and tie-dyed!

Here are my top 5 tips for living a healthy lifestyle while having fun.

  1. Eat breakfast! It seriously is THE MOST IMPORTANT meal of the day. You starve your body all night so you need to feed your body within 1 hour of waking. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it needs to be nutrient-dense to get your metabolism revving. Some great options are plain greek yogurt with berries or a whole grain english muffin with a tablespoon of pb. Even a banana on the go is better than nothing.
  2. Don’t skip meals. Again, it’s like skipping breakfast, you won’t save yourself any calories. Skipping a meal flicks a switch in your brain that says that your starving your body. Your metabolism will drop and will most likely gorge later on.
  3. Get moving and do it often. Even if you’re not a runner, spinner, yogi, or gym rat, get moving! Take a daily walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s better for your bones, muscles, and heart.
  4. When it comes to deserts, indulge but not TOO much.I love desserts. I love pies, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pastries – you name it. The trick is to indulge when you can, but not too much. Treat your dessert like it is, a treat. Eat slowly and enjoy the flavors. Before you know it, you won’t want the entire massive Cheesecake factory size slice anymore.
  5. Enjoy a night out on the town, but get back on track the next day. I’m guilty of this too: you go out with your friends one night, drink a few too many adult beverages and you feel like kaka in the morning. You then have a huge greasy breakfast and lay on the couch feeling crappy and guilty all day. DO NOT DO THIS! Don’t feel guilty about going out and drinking. Enjoy your free time and your life. Just get back on track with your healthy lifestyle the next day. Eat a healthy breakfast and do something active. One of the best hangover cures is exercise (I swear to god it is, trust me). Before you know it, you’ll be feeling much better.

We only get one life and one body. Treat it right, but have fun too. 🙂

Dating in a City of Single Men

Dating is hard. Dating in college is even harder. In a city that’s population is 30% college students, you would think that it would be easy to find the special person to spend all your free time between classes with. Oh no my friend, this is not so easy. It’s easy to find someone, but it’s not so easy to find the person that is right for you.

I think a mistake a lot of girls make in college (and I am guilty of this too) is that they find a guy and immediately fall for the idea of what he could be to her. You know the feeling – you meet a guy at a party or somewhere, you exchange numbers and hope that he’ll call you. He’s nice, funny, and super cute. Your mind starts going in a million directions. “He’s taller than me, so we’ll look really good in wedding photos.”… “He has really good hair and eyes…I wonder what our kids would look like.” … “I think my mom would REALLY like him!”

WHOA! Slow down there chicka! As college students, I think we’re all in a hurry to grow up. We’re told that we’re adults now, and are responsible for our own lives and decisions. While this is true, I think many girls are in a hurry to find that college boyfriend that they will date and then eventually marry once they leave school. In my grandmother’s time, girls only went to college so that they could meet their future husband. In the 21st century, this is a pretty archaic idea of college and relationships. I found that it took 5 years of college to really find who Sarah really is, so why would you want to force yourself into a relationship when you barely know who you are? So here are the things I learned in college about relationships and love.

  1. Stop wasting your time with assholes. Does he call you constantly for a week and then stop? Have you gone on one or two dates that were nice but not great? Do you only see him after 1 a.m. on the weekends? Do you constantly freak out when he doesn’t text you every few hours? If any of these things asshole characteristics are happening, I hate to break it to you, but he’s just not that into you! When I was in high school, Greg Behrendt’s book He’s Just Not That Into You came out. Even though I was not very experienced in the healthy-relationship front, I read it, and it made sense. A guy who likes you will follow up after dates, introduce you to friends, call you back, and be 100% straight forward with how he feels. Guys ARE easy to understand, ladies. We just have to stop getting in our own way and listen. If he’s an asshole to you, he doesn’t like you enough to date you. Sorry.
  2. Make you a priority. College is all about figuring out who you are, what you believe it, and what you are passionate about. The person I was at 18 entering college was definitely NOT the person I was at 23 graduating. My biggest advice for girls is to have fun in college. Make out drunkenly with a cute guy at a party, but don’t expect him to call you back the next day. It may happen, but it’s not the norm. Enjoy your time. Make great girl and guy friends, join some awesome clubs, focus on school work, and try to figure out you. Relationships work best when you bring your best self forward. You can’t do that if you don’t know yourself yet.
  3. Be open to possibilities. When I met my current boyfriend, I was in a sort of friends-with-benefits relationship with a guy who clearly did not want a commitment. While he told me that he cared about me, we never hung out outside of his apartment, I didn’t meet many of his friends, and we never went on a proper date. A few days before I met my future bf, I realized I needed to stop the shenanigans and drop this guy. Then boom, I met someone who actually wanted to be in a relationship. I didn’t see it coming, and it sort of happened spontaneously. But the lesson is this; if a guy is dragging out along with broken promises that he never really fulfills, walk away. Life is too short to waste any time on someone who can’t make up their mind. If a guy really wants to be with you, he will be with you.

So college dating in a large city full of other single college students is not always easy. Be open, know yourself, and understand when someone isn’t treating you like the amazing person that you are. Someone better who will fully appreciate everything about you (flaws and all) might be right around the corner. In the meantime, enjoy your friends and life!

Girlfriends are the best!